Thursday, September 12, 2013

Giving Charity in Morocco - No Pens Please!

Giving is important for many travellers, especially in a country where there is very little in the way of a social safety net for the poor.  However, it is important not to encourage begging. This is especially important with children. A child who makes money from tourists is likely to beg rather than attend school

Every city will have several charities to help orphans and other disadvantaged children, women, disabled people and for working animals, the American Fonduk in Fez or Spana in Marrakech. Some you can visit and volunteer to help for a day, some will appreciate any spare clothes, games, unwanted mobile phones (if you are coming with a half empty suitcase for shopping bring some stuff to leave here) and some will just appreciate a cash donation.

Your Riad or hotel should be able to point you in the right direction. Check the authenticity of any charity you choose to support carefully.

Recently a traveller intending to visit Morocco posted on a travel advice forum.

We are coming to The Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert regions I have heard before that people took ballpoint pens to give to the children. My question is; Do the children still like to receive ballpoint pens?

Our friend, the ever helpful Tim Cullis responded:
Pens are actually extremely cheap in Morocco and are plentiful. Kids don't need yet more pens, what you give out as gifts are sold on or swapped. So please please please do not hand out pens, sweeties and anything else to children, and don't hand out medicines to anyone. It causes utter mayhem for other travellers. I almost took the eye out of one begging girl who got too close to my motorbike on a corner and the handguard hit her on the temple.
 sign erected by the authorities asking you NOT to do this

Translation: Don't make too much noise, keep a distance from wild animals, respect places of worship, avoid behaviour likely to shock locals, don't give to people--especially children--sweets, pens, drugs, so as not to encourage begging.

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David Bennett said...

It's been a while since I was in Morocco - but I recall hustlers - not shopkeepers who hoped to make a sale - but hustlers - who made a lot of tourists feel uncomfortable.. to the point where tourists would hold together in a group - too frightened to expose themselves to the risk of being accosted.

If that's part of the scene - what do children learn from seeing it?

David Bennett said...

I should amplify on my previous comment and say that it wasn't meant to be rhetorical. I am very interested in your viewpoint.

I met some very interesting people in Morocco and liked it a lot.

The View from Fez said...

After reporting in Morocco since 2005 I have yet to hear or see of people intimidated as you say. Most Moroccans kill you with kindness and generosity. Hustlers are in every country and Morocco fortunately has tourist police who are effective in dealing with any problems.

The attitude towards children who attempt to hustle is the rebuke "hsuma!" or "shame" - and it is also effective.

Sandy McCutcheon said...

I agree - it is not a real problem in Fez - maybe more in Marrakech. I just spent a couple of days in Casablanca and was not hassled, even in the Medina

abd rahman said...

Fes is a city of contrast. There are so many Range Rovers and other big cars and so may poor people, some of who,I suspect, have no choice but to beg. I live on a very modest pension and give a few dhms to beggers when I can. I can make no moral choices as to whether they are deserving or not. There is one young man, who is outside the bab boujloud mousque every day and I give him dhms when I see him. I think he is mentally ill. Rather him then give to the american fondouk whose main, very worthy, purpose, is to care for animals.

Anonymous said...

The American Fondouk allows visits most mornings. They are doing amazing work with the donkey and mules population of the Medina -